For those of you who read the hastily scrawled napkin message on that fateful July night, then you, like me, are still mourning the death of Death Grips. And if that’s true, then you, like me, probably have been checking the Death Grips website thirdworlds.net obsessively, finatically, unconciously even, for the second half of their final album, titled Jenny Death. The breakup letter told us they would be releasing it “later this year,” (being 2014) but still, no album.
If you aren’t a prior Death Grips fan, here’s a little background. This is a band that positively described the vibe at their own concerts as “volatile” when speaking to Pitchfork in November 2012. This is a band that left their label over disputes concerning the release of their fourth album, Government Plates for free to the public. This is a band that after later launching their own label, “Third Worlds” in conjunction with Harvest and Capitol Records, broke up seemingly out of no where, and cancelled all upcoming tour dates, including an opening slot for Nine Inch Nails at Red Rocks.
On the night of January 4th of this year, Death Grips released a new album. No, not Jenny Death, the final part of the double album The Powers That B, companion album to N*ggas on the Moon. Not the album you were expecting. Instead, we’ve been treated to an honest-to-goodness surprise. The new album is Fashion Week, a 14 track instrumental experience.
While MC Ride’s puncturing scream and enigmatic raps are missed, it is impressive to hear Zach Hill and Flatlander “at their best,” a statement made in the band’s supposed break up note. The Hill drumset brings a raw and unaffected beat to Fashion Week, something fans of their earlier work might miss. Though the Death Grips backbeat is always cutting, it’s usually heavy with an electronic sludge. In Fashion Week, the kit is gloating and unrelenting as ever, but free and uninhibited.
Flatlander doesn’t seem to be breaking much new ground in this venture, but that’s not to say his work is bad. The DJ/producer brings just what has come to be expected. The melodies are shrill, biting, and craning throughout. A few of Fllander’s standout tracks include Flatlander’s standout content “Runway H” (the second ‘H’ that is) which is he his poppiest content yet, or in “Runway W,” where creepy chimes and a fuzzed out guitar lead scrape down an echoey back alley.
The result is a raucous sonic excursion, one that is notably lighter in tone when the blasting MC Ride vocal is removed. It’s refreshing to hear the other two thirds of Death Grips flex their musical muscles, especially Flatlander, whose shining moments are often relegated to the hook, a space all but dominated by Ride.
As if a surprise album isn’t enough, the last letter of the track titles spell out a wicked taunt when read straight down: JENNY DEATH WHEN. It doesn’t bother them that you have 3 tracks each named “Runway N.” It’s more important that you know that they’ll release their album on their terms. Their obstinate refusal to fold has always been prevalent in their music, and their politics, but never has it been so utterly pervasive.